The differential influence of multiple reporters on the relationship between attachment in infancy and internalizing behaviors in middle childhood

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Trapani, Jennifer Nichole

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The quality of developmental outcomes in attachment literature has been primarily limited to report of the parents or teachers but few studies have included both parents and teachers together, and even fewer have incorporated the perspective of the children themselves. In this study, ratings by mother, teacher, and the child, of internalizing problems in the form of anxiety and depression at 7-years of age were examined across attachment classifications as measured by the Strange Situation in infancy in a middleclass, low risk population. Patterns of reporting were expected to differ by reporter, with attachment classification of the child having a significant effect on informant differences. It was hypothesized that secure attachment in infancy would be associated with relative absence of internalizing problems at 7-years of age while avoidant, resistant, and disorganized attachment in infancy will be associated with significant levels of depression, anxiety, and both syndromes, respectively. It was also hypothesized that the child’s perspective, assessed through use of an age-appropriate self-report measure, would offer a relatively strong relationship compared to mother and infancy and internalizing behaviors in middle childhood depended on reporter of these behaviors. Results indicated that teacher report of children’s internalizing behaviors was related to attachment classification. Specifically, disorganized children were reported by teachers to exhibit highest levels of internalizing behaviors in general and depression in particular, while secure children were reported to exhibit the lowest levels of these behaviors. Mother report did not significantly differ across attachment classification. Surprisingly, no relationship between attachment classification in infancy and child self-report of internalizing behaviors was found despite use of an age-appropriate interview tool. Implications of these findings include attention to the relationship between disorganized attachment in infancy and depression in middle childhood and the importance of utilizing multiple reporters in assessing internalizing behavior problems in children, particularly that of teachers. A continuing need exists, however, to study the validity of child selfreport of internalizing disorders.